Smashing Pumpkins Live at Brixton Academy on 1993-09-25
- Smashing Pumpkins
02. Geek U.S.A.
06. Hummer (false start)
07. I Am One (with rant)
13. Cherub Rock
15. unknown instrumental
16. Silverfuck > Over the Rainbow [Harburg/Arlen] (tease)
* small dropout at the start of Geek U.S.A.
* Liz Phair and the Verve opened
- 2010-07-06 21:40:14
- London, UK
- Run time
- AUD>ANA (handheld)
- Transferred by
- Brixton Academy
Subject: Predictable, yet passionate
Subject: Landmark Show: For all the wrong reasons
The sound of the recording aside, what makes this show significant is that it was the end of the first proper tour that the band had done in support of Siamese Dream. Starting in Europe with festival and club dates in late August, the band moved on to the UK to perform a string of dates, ending with this one at Brixton Academy in London. The Euro/UK tour featured numerous well-played gigs, featuring consistently interesting setlists, and performances faithful to the original feeling of the songs on the album (as opposed to the fast-fast-faster screamed versions of the songs that would get played in 1994). Listening to shows from this tour, you can hear that the band are in good spirits throughout the tour, talkative and enjoying the performances. The show right before this one, in Southampton, featured performances of Crush and Tristessa, for instance, while other performances featured Starla, Drown, Window Paine, Suffer, and even Pissant.
So, why the low rating for this show to end the tour? First off, the set here marked the beginning of the "standard" Siamese Dream setlist. Once the band returned to the US to begin the October-Dec tour in support of the new album, the setlists would feature very few surprises, similar to this show in London. Occasional performances of Starla would get included, but most all of the circulating dates from the US tour would feature the same format of having Geek USA or Rocket as the opener, followed by a set of the same group of songs night after night, with one show getting a performance of Spaceboy, while another received a performance of Mayonaise instead.
More significantly, is that this performance could probably be seen as the birth of the "confrontational" version of Billy's stage persona. As opposed to the occasional sparring that he would do with audiences over things like throwing things at the band, or shouting requests, this performance in London signaled a turn towards a version of Billy that was more about challenging the crowd, while making himself out to be a misunderstood/sensitive/tortured personality.
For proof, look no further than the introduction to the show, where Billy takes to the stage and gives the crowd instructions on how they should behave, and then proceeds to issue a public threat to journalist Everett True, who had written a scathing review of the band in the September 4, 1993 issue of Melody Maker. True touched on everything from the band's motivations (as calculated sell-outs), to the substance of Billy's writing (that he was jumping on both the "grunge" and "sensitive" bandwagons already pioneered by Cobain), and even Billy's personality (that he was a smug, artistic fraud).
The interesting part here is that by all accounts, the band were otherwise getting very good press for the new album, so one would think that they would be above the occasional bad review. Yet, here, 3 weeks after the review had been printed, Billy chose the band's most high-profile show of the tour to vent his frustration publicly, starting the gig by threatening to kick True's ass if he ever met him.
As if that wasn't enough, Billy apparently felt that more was needed on the subject, and so decided that dressing up in a clown suit for the encore of this show was the appropriate way to drive the point home even more. Yep. As he returns to the stage just before Spaceboy (of all songs), dressed in full clown getup, he tells the crowd "I figure I act like one, so I might as well dress like one". The crowd can be heard reacting with silence. As if they were all sharing the same thought of "What the...".
Now, clearly I like this band, and True's review was a particularly harsh thing for a music critic to write about a band, especially given how popular the Melody Maker was in the UK at the time. But what makes the "clown suit incident" so stupid is that in this one performance Billy actually validated quite a bit of what True had written about him. From the threat at the beginning of the show, to the rant in I Am One, to the clown suit, to the additional rant in Silverfuck where he both proclaims that he refuses to be a whore, and then yells at an audience member, it isn't hard to see why True thought of Billy the way he did.
It is worth mentioning that Everett True was one of the first journalists to cover the grunge scene in Seattle, where he befriended Kurt Cobain (pre-Nevermind fame) along with others active in the scene at the time. He's also credited as having introduced Kurt to Courtney Love, and was a friend of the couple up until Kurt's death. So, one can imagine the possibility of True writing about Billy the way he did out of a resentment of any and all things which he deemed to be copying Cobain's influence (ironically, it would be True himself, all the years later, still pushing his relationship with Cobain whenever he can. He's even published a book about it.)
As for Billy's reaction, to be fair, we can cut him some slack as well, given that this was the period just before the band officially gained international success. No doubt that the pressure was something significant to deal with. Maybe it was as simple as the band, and Billy, not yet really being ready for the spotlight. Notice that of all of the shows on the Siamese Dream tour, some of the least interesting gigs were in some of the highest profile venues. This show in London, and subsequent gigs in Los Angeles and New York received some of the most restrained performances.
Anyway, after this show in London there would be many more examples of Billy chastising the audience for one thing or another, and those rants in I Am One and Silverfuck would regularly feature comments about Billy's pain. Billy would even walk off the stage at a few shows.
Fast forward 5 months from this show, and the next time the band would play London would be the 4-night stand at the Astoria in February 1994, where Billy would close the run of shows by smashing a prop guitar onstage in front of the MTV cameras filming the show (the giveaway is that the guitar Billy uses for Silverfuck doesn't match any of the touring guitars he had been using up to that point). So, even 5 months later, True still wasn't all that wrong about some of the choreographed aspects of Billy's stage persona.
What's funny is that after those Astoria shows, Billy's mood onstage changed significantly, and the frequent audience confrontations all but disappeared from shows. The subsequent March and April shows of 1994 ended up being some of the best-played and friendliest performances of the era, with some of the best setlists as well. In fact, those 94 shows have an odd similarity to the quality of the Euro/UK shows that the band had been giving right up until the London show in 1993. Kind of makes for a weird coincidence, where the staged "mad" persona that started in London 1993 with a clown suit would only end up finally getting put to bed in London 1994 with the staged smashing of a guitar. Go figure.
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